Sunday, June 18, 2006

Getting Old

So, I see over at Patrick's place that the teens have this ringtone they think only they can hear.

In settings where cellphone use is forbidden — in class, for example — it is perfect for signaling the arrival of a text message without being detected by an elder of the species.

"When I heard about it I didn't believe it at first," said Donna Lewis, a technology teacher at the Trinity School in Manhattan. "But one of the kids gave me a copy, and I sent it to a colleague. She played it for her first graders. All of them could hear it, and neither she nor I could."
The cellphone ring tone that she heard was the offshoot of an invention called the Mosquito, developed last year by a Welsh security company to annoy teenagers and gratify adults, not the other way around.

It was marketed as an ultrasonic teenager repellent, an ear-splitting 17-kilohertz buzzer designed to help shopkeepers disperse young people loitering in front of their stores while leaving adults unaffected.

The principle behind it is a biological reality that hearing experts refer to as presbycusis, or aging ear. While Miss Musorofiti is not likely to have it, most adults over 40 or 50 seem to have some symptoms, scientists say.

While most human communication takes place in a frequency range between 200 and 8,000 hertz (a hertz being the scientific unit of frequency equal to one cycle per second), most adults' ability to hear frequencies higher than that begins to deteriorate in early middle age.

But I could hear it, and I used to run sound. Can you?


refinnej said...

I heard it too. But if there was background noise, or if you weren't expecting to hear anything, it would be easy to dismiss. And before reading this article it certainly would never occured to me that what I was hearing was a ringtone.

ntodd said...

WT had put a link in comments when I blogged this. I played the MP3 and couldn't hear a fucking thing--not surprising.

Gardner said...

Desktop computer, JBL Monitor One speakers (good, not great), Denon AVR-810 amp with volume at lowish-normal level: I heard the tone very clearly. When I turned my head one way or the other the sound changed character and was harder to hear, but straight on it was clear as a bell. Not bad for a middle-aged guy. Women keep their high-frequency hearing a lot longer than we do. On the other hand, men do better with bass, mostly because of larger eardrums (on average). Ah, physiology!

Anonymous said...

i'm 37. not only could i hear it, but it felt like someone was trying to saw off my right frontal lobe with the rusty lid off a can of non-dolphin safe tuna. i had a headache for about a half hour after. i guess henry rollins didn't mess up my ears as much as i thought.

one friend my age couldn't hear it, most could, only one other had the same physical reaction i had.

Maria de los Angeles said...

They need to make one for Cuban parents!

Anonymous said...

I suspect that those of us who have made a life of playing music, critically listening to music or mixing sound, have kept our ears as fit as the legs of those who are addicted to running.

Yeh, we've all flogged the ring out of our ears doing it, but that tends to only knock out specific frequencies. (As a bass player I have trouble hearing the tuning of lower-end notes.)

I reckon we keep a degree of top-end because we care about it as part of the whole sound, so while the primary scilla for the upper frequencies get flattened, we teach our brains to filter the top end out of the signals from the other hairs in the inner ear.

Just a hunch, but a recent audiometry test I took at work had me hearing well up into the 17kHz range

Anonymous said...

I suspect that those of us who have made a life of playing music, critically listening to music or mixing sound, have kept our ears as fit as the legs of those who are addicted to running.

That might be the case. I do know that I'm the only person who seems to get freaked out when the cable box is off but the TV is left on: that high-pitched hum gets to me very quickly.

Also, I tested the ringtone on my own teen: it would work as repellent for her. Even the promise of escaping detection wasn't enough to coax her to download it.


Pen Ultimate said...

Amazingly, yes -- my hearing has also been righteously abused over the past 43 years, but I can hear that, no problem.